U.S. Sanctions Greek Businessman for Helping Iran Ship Oil

The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on a Greek businessman, saying he helped Iran evade sanctions by purchasing oil tankers and disguising their cargoes.

Dimitris Cambis, president of Impire Shipping Ltd., will have his assets in the U.S. blocked, the Treasury said in a statement today. Cambis used Impire Shipping and other front companies to buy eight tankers capable of carrying $200 million-worth of oil per shipment and use them to load Iranian crude from the country’s own ships, the department said.

“These are very bad rumors created by our competitors because we are trying to take market share and they don’t like it,” Cambis said by phone from his office in Athens. He said he was unaware of the sanctions against him.

The U.S. and allies are trying to curb Iran’s oil exports, the country’s largest source of revenue, to pressure the government in Tehran to stop enriching uranium. Negotiators will meet in Kazakhstan next month to discuss steps toward an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, which the country says is for civilian use while Western leaders suspect military intent.

“Today we are lifting the veil on an intricate Iranian scheme that was designed to evade international oil sanctions,” David Cohen, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in the statement. “We will continue to expose deceptive Iranian practices, and to sanction those individuals and entities who participate in these schemes.”

Libra Shipping

Impire and a management company called Libra Shipping loaded the tankers using ship-to-ship transfers to mask the cargoes’ origin and sell them on the global market, the department said. In December 2012, Impire and the National Iranian Tanker Company, known as NITC, completed a transfer of Iranian oil off Khor Fakkan in the United Arab Emirates, according to the statement. The Treasury has named 58 vessels as blocked property for ties to NITC, it said.

Iranian oil shipments advanced 13 percent last month even as the U.S. implemented new sanctions against the Persian Gulf country, according to the International Energy Agency. Exports are still down from an average of 1.5 million barrels a day last year and 2.5 million in 2011, before sanctions intensified, IEA estimates show. Net oil revenue dropped to $64 billion for the first 11 months of 2012, compared with $95 billion for all of 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy said in a Dec. 21 report.

There was no answer at the phone number for Libra Shipping’s office in Glyfada, Greece, outside of normal business hours today. An e-mail to the company seeking comment wasn’t immediately answered.